Saturday, July 13, 2024

Steve Hackett – Foxtrot at Fifty, plus Hackett Highlights ‘live’ in Brighton

Steve Hackett joined Genesis in time to play on their 1971 Nursery Cryme album, replacing founding member Anthony Phillips on guitar, and he remained with the band until, in 1977; when he decided he wanted to be ‘captain of his own ship’ and he set off on his solo voyage. Foxtrot was the second studio album Hackett played on and the album is now rightly regarded as a classic, containing several tracks Genesis continued to perform even after Hackett left, with tracks like ‘Watcher Of The Skies’ becoming a ‘live’ favourite, and ‘Supper’s Ready’ going on to be regarded, at twenty-three minutes long, as a masterclass in prog dynamics.

As an album, Foxtrot is just an amazing album from beginning to end, helping to set the bar high for what prog rock could accomplish, as well as spawning many imitators in its wake. For its fiftieth anniversary in 2022, Hackett and his band took Foxtrot on a lengthy tour, playing the album in its entirety, and has now been released as a double CD.   

Disc One sees Hackett and the band playing several well-established favourites from his solo canon. We get three tracks from his 1975 debut album, Voyage Of The Acolyte, and he opens the evening with ‘Ace Of Wands,’ the title coming from a tarot card, and it’s a delightful intro to what becomes a stellar gig. ‘Tower Struck Down’ comes across as managing to be calm and threatening simultaneously, and ‘Devil’s Cathedral,’ from 2022’s Surrender Of Silence, has some fine gothic touches as well as the kind of haunted power playing even Van der Graaf would struggle to replicate. The refreshingly delightful ‘Every Day’ has all the potential of a hit single, but then we get glorious versions of ‘Spectral Mornings,’ which is a majestic piece of music, as well as one of the great Hackett tracks, ‘Shadow Of The Hierophant,’ though this time sung by Amanda Lehman rather than Sally Oldfield .. yes, she’s Mike’s sister. ‘Basic Instinct’ is essentially a bass workout for Jonas Reingold, incorporating the odd lick of Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Chile’ along the way, and the deep cut ‘Camino Royale,’ from 1983’s Highly Strung, was a surprise addition. Disc One ends with the last two tracks of the set, the classic ‘Firth Of Firth’ from Selling England, and ‘Los Endos,’ from Trick Of The Tail, the first post-Gabriel album, so Disc Two can focus on Foxtrot being heard in its entirety.

The iconic mellotron opening to the powerful ‘Watcher Of The Skies’ (if you know the Fantastic Four, you’ll know who this is) begins Disc Two, which is followed by ‘Timetable’, one of the more straightforward pieces on the album, and this is a superb rendition of it. The quirky and slightly sinister ‘Get ‘em Out By Friday’ is played slightly faster than on the album, and is a melodrama about the kind of property developer greed still being felt 50 years on. On the album, Gabriel does a great job with all the different vocal characterisations but, as good as Nad Sylvan is, his voice doesn’t carry quite carry the same allegorical tones employed by Gabriel. The much underrated ‘Can-Utility and the Coastliners,’ about a king believing he can turn back the tide, is a beautifully crafted piece and is quintessential Genesis. The short ‘Horizons’ is a lovely piece and a chance for Steve to show what he can do on acoustic. All these tracks prove there’s far more to this album than just the one lengthy piece associated with it.

But, as soon as ‘Horizons’ finishes, Nad sings “walking across the sitting room, I turn the television on,” the crowd erupts and we’re straight into the twenty-three-minute epic, ‘Suppers Ready’. Unlike most lengthy side long prog pieces, there are no lengthy or repetitive passages or any unnecessary tedious solos. Rather, it’s one long beautifully crafted piece with a number of different passages. The band interprets the original Genesis in a supremely efficient way and it’s almost impossible to choose between the original and this one, as both are magnificent performances. ‘Suppers Ready’ is truly one of the all-time prog classics and an almost unparalleled achievement by the band, and it sums up everything good about a band who were on fire with creativity at the time.

With this band of fantastic musicians, Steve Hackett is truly the keeper of the Genesis flame, showing Foxtrot has stood the test of time, as will this ‘live’ performance of it. 

Laurence Todd
Laurence Todd
Took early retirement after many years as a teacher in order to write books as well as about music. A long-time music obsessive, has wide and eclectic tastes but particularly likes prog rock and rock in general. Enjoys going to gigs and discovering new acts.

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Steve Hackett joined Genesis in time to play on their 1971 Nursery Cryme album, replacing founding member Anthony Phillips on guitar, and he remained with the band until, in 1977; when he decided he wanted to be ‘captain of his own ship’ and he...Steve Hackett - Foxtrot at Fifty, plus Hackett Highlights ‘live’ in Brighton